According to research (?) most people understand complex problem domains by visualization. Things and their relations to each other can be understood with a picture – “one picture is worth a thousand words”. The more there are elements in “the big picture”, the more there are relations between them, and the more there is complexity. Visualization gives us possibility to interpret the details of the problem domain. Visualization supports development activities and communication between people from different organization levels – from C-level management to operational level.
Enterprise Development Supported by A Visualization Tool
An enterprise is a system that is “sosio-technical” construct – both human and technology aspects need to be taken into account in development of any kind. An enterprise is a “system of systems”, which is complex by nature. Without any discipline and systematic governance, the enterprise is blowing in wind to chaos – according to laws of entropy: things get going to disorder without any control. Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a discipline that supports overall holistic development of an enterprise (organization).
EA can be applied to practice with many different approaches, but in any cases it will help complexity management and enable holistic design thinking. However, EA as a discipline, neither related methods and tools haven’t succeeded extensively. Reasons for this are many, typically the benefits haven’t been proven. Architects (the ones to blame for the bad reputation of EA) have provided too much cumbersome model outcomes, too slowly, with too much details, to name few reasons. Even though EA models often contain the most exact diagrams with many details, they are often too difficult to understand and too cumbersome for most of us. The important message is lost in details. Business decision makers can’t see “the forest for the trees”. There should be a data visualization tool with simplified views with visual effects, with possibility to play with the data and get some analysis of the data. All this with attractive user experience, with easy, user-friendly interface.
In this era of Lean and Agility, enterprise development must be supported & enabled with more easy and simpler tools. The complexity management and overall holistic development of an organization should be made possible simpler and faster. This can be made possible with mixing new practices and technologies with principles and foundations of EA discipline and modelling practices and related methods and tools – by adjusting and upgrading them with added value tools, technologies and use cases.
Next Wave Visualization and Analysis Tool
It could be possible to implement a Visualization and analysis tool that provides all the relevant information of the enterprise in the same, easy and simple browser-based application. It would be practical and valuable to have all the relevant enterprise data available with responsive user interface, in easy and simple format, all of which makes development and decision making attractive and effective. The EA data (customers, services and products, processes, information, applications and technologies etc.) can be provided in the form of easier visualizations, and made subjects of many kinds of business related analysis (such as impact analysis). All the EA data can then be linked and enriched with operational data (e.g. related IT-services, ITSM, CMDB), which will provide new “emergent” information of the enterprise..
The Visualization Tool described here is a combination of EA modeling tool, a Graph Database and an User Interface application. The visualization tool provides easy user interface that is based on modern web technologies, and existing open source based products (such as Archi-tool, and Neo4j Graph Database). A scenario could be as follows: all the data is retrieved from graph database, into which all the data has been collected from several sources. The basic “raw” data, the “enterprise data” (“EA data” for short), in this context refers to all the enterprise data that can be utilized for governance and management as well as operational aspects of the organization. The EA data consists of information such as applications and their interconnections, data flows between the systems, services, projects, platforms, running applications, servers etc. – all those are related to each other, and this wholeness can be visualized easier and simpler way than what we have seen – at this far. This can be made by using graph database and modern web technologies. The EA data can be visualized with more user friendly ways – such that we have seen with graphical maps for example: zooming in and out, drilling down to objects to open up more detailed “layer”, some 3D effects etc. The foundation of the EA data is managed and produced from the EA- tool (such as Archi-tool), which acts as a master data source.
Currently available EA modeling tools that are utilizing standard modeling notation(s), are typically meant for architects only. Modelling complex domains is not an easy task. But modelling artifacts, diagrams, should be more easy to depict and understand – at first glance. The next wave of visualization tools are targeted, not only architects, but also to wider user groups such as managers, business developers, customer relation managers, project managers, service managers, service desk personnel, operational staff etc. – altogether. The next wave visualization and analysis tools should be more user friendly and provide more attractive visualizations. This places the EA discipline and -modelling into even more central position, and gives them another chance to insure their importance and value… (This is a must, the EA practice and -tools have to disrupt themselves before they get disrupted by some other disciplines.)
Implementation option 1
This option of the visualization tool is based on integration of modeling tool with a database. The most suitable modeling tool to fit for purpose is the Archi tool. It supports the most relevant modeling language, the ArchiMate. The Archi tool can be enhanced with plug-ins. There is available a database plug-in, that stores models in a central repository, created by Hervé Jouin (link). With this plug-in it is possible to transfer ArchiMate models into database (such as MySQL, MS SQL Server and Neo4j). So the EA model is the basic structure that can be made available to be extended and enriched with other data such as CMDB data, and then be visualized by the browser based user interface. (Note! I’m testing a version of this plug-in that is not yet available from GitHub, upd. by E.H. 2018-03-18.)
The ArchiMate model is anyhow the core component of the enterprise design, but it could be hidden behind the scenes. It is not the “client-facing interface” (internal- and external clients), but instead, it is the key design notation. It enables strategy planning, Business Model Innovation, Service-Driven Development, Capability-Based Planning, Service Design etc. by providing a standards-based notation.
High-level architecture sketch of the Visualization Tool with “novelty value” is illustrated in the figure below.
Implementation option 2
Another implementation is also based on Archi tool, but it is utilizing ArchiMate Model Echange File Format (link) to transfer EA data between Archi tool and visualization tool.